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Book Forum: Mind/Brain   |    
Emotions and Life: Perspectives for Psychology, Biology, and Evolution
KATHRYN J. EDNIE, M.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2005;162:409-409. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.162.2.409
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By Robert Plutchik. Washington, D.C., American Psychological Association, 2002, 592 pp., $59.95.

Emotions are a complex subject to explore in a single book. All animals experience emotions; although the emotions may be beyond self-awareness, they can influence the animals’ behavior or that of animals around them. Emotions and Life is a textbook designed for students in psychology or graduate students studying the field of emotion. The author, Robert Plutchik, is a noted psychologist who has conducted extensive research and developed theories of emotions. He has published widely on the topic, and, in this volume, explores the evolution and biology of emotion.

"Life" in the title refers to this book’s survey of emotions in all living creatures. The examination of emotions encompasses the evolution of emotions and its expression in different species, laying a framework for its empirical study in humans. The title may be a bit misleading, as it is much more a textbook than a clinical manual.

Reflected on the cover is Plutchik’s psychoevolutionary theory of emotions. His experimental work (1) identified several emotions, such as fear, anger, and joy, as primary and postulated that all others were derived from these basic emotions. The emotional circle resembles the color wheel, with most emotions derived from combinations of the few primary emotions, which could be combined to form emotions of different intensities. He postulated that "primary emotions are identifiable, in some form, at all phylogenetic levels and that they have adaptive significance in the individual’s struggle for survival" (1).

The first chapter is an overview of the "landscape of emotions." A framework is laid for the study of the ubiquitous, yet imprecise, use of the words that describe emotions. Emotions may organize cognitive processes or disorganize them, be active or passive, lead to adaptation, or be maladaptive. We may be conscious of our emotions or may be motivated by unconscious emotions. Some theorists divide emotions into positive and negative, while others disagree with this classification, believing that all emotions play an adaptive role.

Other chapters review historical influences, how emotions affect cognition, measurement techniques, emotional development, and emotions and the brain. The last two chapters review the emotional disorders and focus on love and sadness in everyday life.

One of the interesting controversies highlighted in this volume is the issue of which occur first, facial expressions of emotions or the emotional experience. Peripheral theories assume that feedback from facial expressions influences emotional states. In contrast, central theories postulate that facial expressions reflect inner feeling states. Finally, functional theories assume that facial expressions are communications that attempt to influence a social encounter regardless of inner feelings (p. 147).

Overall this book is an extensive compilation of evolutionary, anthropological, animal, and human studies related to the area of emotion. It is a comprehensive psychology textbook, with an emphasis on studies of emotions and a marginal reference to clinical work and implications. It would be an excellent reference for a graduate class in emotions but would be of more academic interest to a clinical graduate student or psychiatrist.

Plutchik R: The Emotions: Facts, Theories, and a New Model. New York, Random House, 1962
 
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References

Plutchik R: The Emotions: Facts, Theories, and a New Model. New York, Random House, 1962
 
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